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AG Derek Schmidt: Respect religious liberty of Navy SEALS regarding Biden vaccine mandate

Release Date: Aug 30, 2022

TOPEKA – (August 30, 2022) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has told a federal court that men and women serving in the armed forces should not be required to jettison their religious liberties and be forced to comply with the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Schmidt joined 21 other state attorneys general yesterday in filing a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in support of a group of Navy SEALS who are seeking exemptions from the administration’s vaccine mandate on grounds that it violates their deeply held religious beliefs. The Biden administration has responded by arguing the military should be given extraordinary deference in its decision to direct compliance with the vaccine mandate, even overriding fundamental freedoms.

“The Biden administration just won't relent in its determination to force Americans to bend to its will on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination,” Schmidt said. “So we won’t stop fighting to protect the jobs and liberties of Kansans, and especially the men and women serving in the armed forces.”

Schmidt and the attorneys general argue that many states have managed to balance fundamental freedoms and sensitive interests during the pandemic. Kansas is one of several states that passed a law requiring religious objections to COVID vaccine mandates to be respected. The attorneys general note that the Biden administration’s actions have been met with legal skepticism, as evidenced by actions in the federal judiciary to strike down several of the administration’s overreaching, one-size-fits-all mandates.

According to U.S. Department of Defense data, of 105,277 reported COVID cases within the U.S. Navy, only 17 deaths and one hospitalization have occurred. Yet only 47 religious accommodation requests have been approved and 4,251 requests remain pending – and all 47 of the approvals occurred after this case was filed and the Biden administration’s actions were met with criticism from the federal judiciary.

This case had previously reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices stayed a lower court decision “insofar as it precludes the Navy from considering the respondents’ vaccination status in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions.” The case now continues in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Several other similar cases around the country remain pending. 

Schmidt has previously obtained federal court injunctions blocking the OSHA vaccine mandate for private employers, the federal contractor vaccine mandate and the Head Start vaccine and mask mandate.

A copy of the brief filed in support of the Navy SEALS can be found at https://bit.ly/3wIyHk6.

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